Zinedine Zidane Says People Want Him to Have a Problem with Gareth BaleFebruary 9, 2020
Zinedine Zidane hit out at those trying to manufacture tension between him and Gareth Bale after the Welshman's return to the Real Madrid side in Sunday's 4-1 La Liga win over Osasuna.
Bale made his first appearance since January 4, playing 71 minutes on the right flank before being replaced by Lucas Vazquez.
The 30-year-old's relationship with Zidane has long appeared strained, and back in the summer, the Real manager said he hoped Bale would leave the club:
But he again made it clear after Sunday's victory that he has no problem with the former Tottenham Hotspur star, per AS (h/t Feargal Brennan of Football Espana):
"The problem here is that there are some people that want me to have a problem with Gareth. That is simply not the case, and it never has been. He has not played in the last three games, but he performed well for 70 minutes today. We have many players here and it is not easy to balance that. Gareth is an important player here and he will continue to play this season."
Bale has endured another injury-hit season in 2019-20. He has made 13 La Liga appearances, scoring two goals and providing two assists.
A combination of a chest infection and an ankle injury kept him out of action for most of January, but Zidane will likely be hopeful he can now have an extended run in the side.
The success of Real's season could hinge on their performances in the next month.
Their run of five successive league wins has seen them open up a six-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table, although Barca can cut the gap back to three if they beat Real Betis on Sunday.
Next up in the Spanish top flight for Real are fixtures against Celta Vigo and Levante before the second Clasico of the season against Barca.
If Los Blancos win all three of those matches, they will be in a brilliant position to win a first league title since 2016-17.
Real also host Manchester City in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie February 26.
In Zidane's first spell in charge of Real, he won Europe's major club competition three seasons in a row.
The 2018 final against Liverpool was one of Bale's defining moments as a Real player. He came off the bench to score twice—one a spectacular bicycle kick—and secure Los Blancos a 3-1 victory.
Real will have a better chance of getting past City and potentially winning another Champions League if Bale is fit and in form.